Monday, February 6, 2012

Soul Searching and Returning to the Student Life

Goals.  We all have 'em, whether we admit it or not, and some are more noble than others.  There's some old ones that take years to carry out, and more that really don't take quite so long to fulfill but rather it's just a matter of doing it.  It's no big secret, I'm back in school- taking pre-requisites for entering grad school to (hopefully) get my M.A. in Near East Studies and Anthropology (there is a combined degree program for this at University of Arizona), and eventually a PhD in one of these fine subjects of which I would like to think will be Near East Studies but will be determined by the path I take once I am further along.  Point being, that I'm on the path.  I found what I have a passion for and grew the balls to start on the path to do it despite all else.
I see and meet so many friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who upon finding out about my plans complain that they wish they could do the same or that they wish they had a passion.  Everyone, and I mean everyone has some sort of passion.  You may not think so, but you do.  There are always going to be things you enjoy doing and it's up to you to decide if you want to find a way to DO that and make a good life out of it, or if you want to be a worker-bee the rest of you life, doing what you enjoy in your off time.  I know what I want to do, and I hope that I'm able to have a positive effect on someone else struggling to do the same.  And I know it's a struggle, it's certainly not easy working full time and going back to school even part time- but to suck it up and know that at some point you're going to be quitting that well paying job and living that student life again for a period of time to start your life over can be downright scary.  But with a lot of planning, and knowing yourself well enough to know that this path is what you ought to be doing it's not impossible.  Nothing is impossible, unless you never start it.
Just remember the quote I found on a greeting card in the supermarket today- "This is your world.  Shape it or someone else will." ~Gary Lew

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Introducing Myself

About nine to ten years ago (okay October 2002), I was in my junior year of college as a student of finance and economics at Eastern Washington University.  I was also standing in my bedroom, with a lone and very sad "bellytwins" DVD trying to teach myself how to bellydance.  It was not going well to say the least.  I did not have time for the class always advertised in the Community Colleges of Spokane catalog to learn bellydance and how to play finger cymbals due to my current schooling and was not finding many other options listed out on how to take up this hobby.  Eventually, between searching the internet and dance studios around town I located a teacher of authentic Egyptian belly dance.  This teacher, A'isha Azar, has since become a wonderful teacher, mentor, listener, and friend (and my namesake, of which above almost anything else I try to uphold the integrity of).

I began my first classes with A'isha in January 2003 and was instantly hooked on the authentic classical Egyptian style of dance.  A few months after this, my schedule cleared enough for me to take the community college course which was in a more Americanized style of dance- at the time was good to know and explore but quickly found this was not to my taste.  I continued my studies in Egyptian Raqs el Shargi as well as various folkloric dances, and began gaining some performance chops in her local student nights and the yearly Fall Folkloric Festivals with her dance company Baharat!  

Eventually, I graduated college and moved off to Seattle for my first job.  I continued my travels across the state to study for some time, however the practicality of spending 9-10 hours on the road each weekend wore me down over time.  I sought a teacher in the Seattle area, attempting to study with Hasani and Mahasti Abidi.  Hasani is a wonderful woman, and a terrific dancer of American cabaret, and Mahasti does do some good Egyptian but was pregnant at the time and the time I was able to spend with her learning my first shaabi prior to her being on bed rest were too few. (I fully admit that at the time, having never studied shaabi before, I did not know exactly what it was I was learning in there).  I contacted several other teachers in the area, however they were either not teaching Egyptian style as I was studying and wished to continue with, or had retired from teaching and performing.  Thus by late 2007 I was only practicing at home, studying from videos and catching an occasional workshop.

In 2008 I began my search for a new job in Phoenix, AZ, and in March 2009 I was moving to Phoenix.  After some time to settle in and some more to lose the weight I gained in those years of laziness, I began perusing the local dance community online.  In March 2010 I began my studies with Roza, and come July 2010 I was also studying with Mahin.  January 2011 through June 2011 I spent with Shahrazad Dance Company ran by Roza, and after coming to a firm conclusion that Modern Cairo Style is not my thing I made the decision that I should be doing what I am good at which was not that.  I have been with Zahr Jamil Middle Eastern Dance Company directed by Mahin since August 2011, and have had a blast learning about the other side of this glam and sparkly side of life- producing shows and choreographing group pieces.  I was able to make one of my first big dance dreams come true as my first project with Zahr Jamil- coming up with a large stage show, recruit dancers, and see it through from start to finish.  Dream #2 was fulfilled as well, as in this show I did the infamous Fifi Abdo style shisha skit which I could not have done without Mahin's support and help and the greatest shisha-boy ever Manny Garcia.  Dream #3 is in progress right now, which is bringing A'isha to Phoenix to teach workshops.  All this in 10 years- I need new dreams for the next decade apparently!

But I do have dreams for this next decade.  Dreams that are one of the hardest things I could probably be doing.  I'm preparing for graduate school, taking a variety of courses related to history, anthropology, and Near East studies.  Ever since I was young, I was always fascinated with anything old and Middle Eastern- and that fascination as only swelled with time.  Many of my undergrad courses were at least history, geology, and some basic anthropology courses- but as needed to be done at the time to get a decent paying job I earned my business degree and went to work in corporate America as an accountant.  Not a bad gig, but somewhat dull for someone whose mind is always at work thinking of art, travel, and the past.

There's much more about me, but those will come later as I think I've managed to spew much more than I intended into this blog post tonight :-)